Freedom and flexibility are core to Springboard’s online, six-month Digital Marketing Career Track bootcamp. But the mentors are the ones who keep students focused and on track! As a former VP of Marketing at a real estate startup with 20 years of experience, Dave Bascom now mentors 6 Springboard digital marketing students. Learn about the Springboard mentor process and see what qualities Dave finds in the best digital marketers.
Dave, you mentor at Springboard part-time, what’s your full-time job?
I actually just left my position as Vice President of Marketing at Homie, a real estate tech startup here in Salt Lake City. I’m currently doing some marketing strategy consulting before I join my next startup.
Your job in marketing really varies depending on the size of your company and the marketing team. Homie was a startup with a small marketing team of four people, so as the VP of Marketing, I was responsible for overseeing and managing all of our marketing efforts. My focus is on growing revenue and acquiring users.
Mentoring with Springboard’s Digital Marketing bootcamp sounded like a really interesting opportunity for me to give back. I found out that they were looking for mentors on LinkedIn, and I've loved it.
How have you seen marketing change as a field over time?
I studied advertising at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. As part of that program, I had to do an internship in an advertising role. I worked with a local media company, Utah.com, and that turned into a job after I graduated from college. This was in 1998, so I was working on what we now call SEO. I loved it, learned a lot in that role, and have stuck with marketing ever since.
As the VP of Marketing at a startup, I now work in probably about half in traditional marketing like direct mail, radio, billboards; and half in digital marketing like Facebook, Google Ads, retargeting, and email.
Since you took a traditional education path into marketing, what did you think of bootcamps? Were you skeptical of the bootcamp model?
My degree was in advertising and a lot of the principles I learned are relevant to my job today, but I don't feel like I really learned much that I’ve actually used in my career. Again, I graduated in 1999, so back then they were teaching very little digital marketing. I took one digital marketing class in the entire four years and because of my internship, I knew more than the instructor. College was still valuable education, but I don't feel like I learned information that I couldn't have learned at bootcamp.
A course like Springboard’s Digital Marketing bootcamp is more focused on the craft of digital marketing.
You can get a good base of knowledge in the traditional route with a bachelor's degree. You’ll learn foundational business and marketing principles depending on your major, but four-year degree programs teach less tactical skills. Springboard is more beneficial in terms of actually learning applicable skills.
So what does it mean to be a mentor at Springboard?
The design of the Springboard mentor program is to have freedom and flexibility for students to set the agenda. They tell me which questions they want to discuss. I’m still learning how it works, but essentially, mentoring entails regularly-scheduled half-hour calls every week with each of my six students. Sometimes calls may be a little bit longer depending on if we have time or more to discuss.
Springboard instructors set the agenda and curriculum for the course. Then, students come to me with questions about projects and assignments and I’m able to help and give feedback.
What do you talk about in those mentor calls?
I have six different mentees and they're all great, but they're all in different places in their career and and have different motivations. It's fun to get to know them and hopefully be able to help them along in their career path.
Every student is different in terms of what they’re trying to get out of Springboard. Some students are entrepreneurs, heavily focused on how to market their business, so their questions are specific to their business. Others have more theoretical questions because they don't have a client or a business they're focused on. They may be working in a different career, but they want to move into digital marketing so there's more focus on the actual course itself. It really varies.
My mentees ask me questions about their assignments or like, "I created this landing page or buyer persona profile – can you give me feedback or show me how can I improve this?"
Also, some of my mentees are going through a job change and ask for advice on interviewing tips or how to approach the job search. I try to make sure that whatever questions they have or whatever they're dealing with, I’m there to help.
Did Springboard help train you to be a good mentor or does it just come naturally to you?
Even though I don't have a lot of formal teaching experience, I have hired and worked with a lot of digital marketers over the years as an informal mentor. But this is my first time in a formal structured mentoring program where it's tied to a curriculum.
Springboard did some initial training about expectations of what they want us to do, and they have occasional follow-on training. They also have people on the team who check in with me on a regular basis to answer any questions or concerns that come up. We also have a feedback system for both the mentor and the mentee where every week when we do our call we will log how it went and if there are any concerns about that student and vice versa.
You have 20 years of experience in digital marketing – what do you think of Springboard’s Digital Marketing curriculum?
The curriculum doesn’t go super deep in any one area, but it's a great foundational baseline. Springboard covers the right topics: marketing fundamentals, analytics, content marketing, SEO, paid and organic social media, display ads, conversion rate optimization, email marketing and career resources. If I were to create a digital marketing curriculum, this is where I would start – it's pretty solid. The Springboard digital marketing bootcamp is pretty new, so the curriculum will evolve and improve over time.
Is there a specific type of person that makes a good digital marketer?
That's a great question. It's hard to pinpoint exactly one type because so many different types of people are successful in digital marketing. In general, the most successful digital marketers have curiosity and a thirst for learning.
To be successful, you can’t get complacent with results and you should always look to improve. Tactically, details change pretty often in digital marketing, so even within a specific campaign or account, you have opportunities to learn and test, and realize that there's not one right answer. You learn what works in general, but there are a lot of opportunities to iterate and optimize improvement.
The best digital marketer is creative but also cares enough about the analytics and the data behind that creative. I've seen a lot of people who are super creative, but they just don't pay attention to the numbers or care about the results. Others are super analytical, but they don't have any good ideas on ad copy. To be successful, especially at the strategic level, you've got to have a combination of creative and analytical skills.
Do you think that the modern digital marketer needs to know how to code?
It’s also important to understand which technology is involved in a project and how it works so that you appreciate a good developer. You can't really exist as a non-technical marketer. The more technical skills you have, the better able you are to interface with a developer to communicate what needs to happen. You’ll also understand the potential limitations of the technology. So it's beneficial to know coding, but being an expert coder isn’t a requirement by any means.
Does this Springboard digital marketing course teach any coding?
If they do, it’s pretty minimal. Springboard students are implementing a lot of landing pages and creating HTML emails. Most of that happens through a WYSIWYG editor or a platform like Unbounce, so there are opportunities within those platforms to dig in and code, but it's not a requirement.
What types of projects are your mentees working on?
There are several projects that build on each other. A recent one is around creating an ideal buyer persona profile – their demographics, their age, what they care about, their pain points and what they're looking for.
Students then build on that to create this value proposition statement around this piece of content. One of the early assignments is a digital marketing salary guide – an e-book. Students create the marketing material for that e-book, from landing pages to Facebook pages etc. Students are looking at other content on the web and critiquing and identify what's good, what's bad, and what can be improved.
From a Springboard mentors’ perspective, I can see assignments that they've submitted and give feedback. Also, through the dashboard I can see how they're progressing in the course in a weekly progress chart. That helps me keep my mentees on track.
What resources do you suggest for aspiring digital marketers?
There are a lot of great resources – my number one recommendation would be to follow smart people in the industry on Twitter and LinkedIn. I'm kind of a nerd, so I have a lot of Facebook friends who are digital marketers so they'll say interesting things on Facebook.
There are sites called Marketing Land and Search Engine Land, which have pretty good variety, relevant, and for the most part, trustworthy sources of information. The Moz blog is great for more tactical, in-the-weeds marketing info; and they're also expanding to more than just Search.
I recommend that you find local groups or meetups where you can talk to real people, and make real connections. It's always refreshing to meet people – you can get great ideas from other people in the same space, doing similar things.